Sebastian Tagliabue insists Al Wahda will play at “100 per cent” to reach Champions League quarter-finals

Matt Jones - Editor 11:57 11/08/2019
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Tagliabue is thwarted by Nassr's former Liverpool stopper Brad Jones in Riyadh last week.

Sebastian Tagliabue insists Al Wahda won’t be taking their foot off the pedal and will play at “100 per cent” despite holding the advantage in their AFC Champions League tie against Al Nassr.

The Clarets gained a precious away goal in the first leg of the last 16 clash in Saudi Arabia last week as the two sides drew 1-1 in Riyadh. Abderrazak Hamdallah had given hosts Nassr the lead in the 17th minute at King Fahd International Stadium.

But lethal Leonardo’s ninth goal of the campaign in the 53rd minute was the key as it gave Maurice Steijn’s side the perfect cushion to take back to Al Nahyan Stadium.

But Argentine veteran Tagliabue has warned his team-mates that the tie is far from over.

“Of course the game is not finished. There’s still 90 minutes to play and Al Nassr will come very hard at us, as will we,” the 34-year-old told Sport360 ahead of the second leg in Abu Dhabi on Monday evening (19:40 kick-off).

“We also want to win and pass into the next round. It’s a very important game for us. We are ready and we will play at 100 per cent.”

If the Clarets are to progress it would be a huge statement from them and new manager Steijn, who has been at the helm barely a month after being announced as Henk ten Cate’s successor.

They are also in the knockout stages of the competition for the first time in well over a decade – the last time they played a game beyond the group was way back in 2007.

On that occasion Wahda made it all the way to the semi-finals, losing 3-1 on aggregate to Iran’s Sepahan, who would go on to lose 3-1 to Japan’s Urawa Reds in the final.

Nassr are also reigning Saudi Pro League champions but Tagliabue believes they will be feeling the pressure – not to mention the heat – when they head to Abu Dhabi.

“It will be noisy because Al Nassr is a big team. They play good football, but I think it will be much different here than in the first half there,” said Tagliabue, referred to affectionately among Wahda fans as ‘Tigali’, and who is heading into his seventh season at the club.

“They played a very high level in the first half and in the second they were very tired. I think here they will be very tired too with the weather, so we have to take advantage of that.

Wahda players celebrate Leonardo's (No42) equaliser.

Wahda players celebrate Leonardo’s (No42) equaliser.

“I think it was a good result and good game. We played a good game and during it we got better, especially in the second half. We kept the ball and played our football.

“We found a goal which is very important, it’s very important in the Champions League to score an away goal and now we have a chance at home to qualify.”

The winners will go on to face either Al Duhail or Al Sadd, both of Qatar, in the quarter-finals. In the other ties in west Asia, Saudi side Al Ittihad hold a 2-1 lead against Iran’s Zob Ahan, while in an all-Saudi clash, Al Hilal lead Al Ahli Jeddah 4-2 following their first leg.

Zob Ahan host Ittihad on Monday while the all-Saudi and Qatari second legs take place on Tuesday.

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